No more pits

Everything has a disclaimer and warning these days. The raisin container says, ‘may contain stems’; the olive jar says, ‘occasional pits’; entertainment has ratings, websites warn of ‘cookies’.

Life seemingly doesn’t come with disclaimers or warnings. Nothing comes with a newborn telling parents this will be the hardest thing you’ve ever done. No tag to tuck away for when that child becomes an adult that says, ‘childhood was hard but you haven’t seen anything yet’.

Then again, there is something that talks about these things. A lengthy list telling the results of our actions – for better or for worse. Written to be timeless and handed down through the ages. “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.(2Timothy 3:16 NLT)

In that case, familiarity and constant intake of the Bible are necessities to navigate this life. And even so, we will still stumble, hearts will still break, fear and sadness and despair will still visit us.

But in the soul of every believer there is a constant companion, the Holy Spirt. He’s a deposit given us ensuring us that we will make it through all this world hurls our way. “When you believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of His glory.(Ephesians 1:13b-14 NIV)

Personally, I hate biting down on an olive and feeling the crunch of the pit. I haven’t been too fond of the pitfalls in life either. Yet as I’ve gotten to know Jesus and become familiar with God through prayer and His Word, I’ve learned to listen for the Holy Spirit and wait on the calm that is promised me.

Peace in the midst of the storms – joy in times of deep sorrow. Those are opposites, right? Yet they are ours. They come from the knowledge that this isn’t all there is.

When we walk our days knowing that someday all sorrow, fear, even death itself will be no more – we are confident that in eternity there will be no more pits. “So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.” (2Corinthians 4:18 NLT)

Endurance

My mother had lots of sayings. When I would be sassy, she’d remind me: You get a lot more with honey than vinegar. When things weren’t going so well for herself or others she would say: Into each life a little rain must fall.

Some lives must feel like it’s a monsoon. I think of war-torn areas and wonder how they endure. I think of moms holding little ones who are skin and bones because of famine. So much heartbreak and trials.

These are the result of things gone awry from way back in the beginning of time. What was perfection quickly became toil, despair, and decay. But all past sins and trials detailed in Bible pages have purposes: “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” (Romans 15:4 NIV)

Not only what was written but what you and I walk through even now. I often wonder: how do those who don’t know Jesus make it through each day? If this is all there is, if we are all just the result of some big bang, some advanced blob on the evolutionary scale – why do any of us keep going?

Though it may be true there are sweet moments in life, far more are the trying moments. Those who love God know this and still struggle. But they have hope. “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful.” (Hebrews 10:23 NIV)

When I was a girl, my parents divorced and each summer I flew back to see my dad. On those flights I came up with a saying of my own: Above the clouds the sky is blue – and the sun still shines. We can’t see beyond the grey cover at times – so we must endure the storms.

Trusting God gives us the endurance we think we don’t have: “All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better. We also pray that you will be strengthened with all His glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy, always thanking the Father. He has enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to His people, who live in the Light.” (Colossians 1:10b-12 NLT) The Son still shines.

Before & After

I love makeovers – an old house becomes dream home. Sepia tone photos restored in color. A caterpillar becomes a butterfly. The old or unsightly made new.

Lots in our world could use a makeover: tyrannical or corrupt governments, crime torn communities, false religions, sick or crippled bodies – most of all dark hearts full of self. Hearts that, laid bare, show only a desire to gratify a hunger for power, wealth, dominance, fame, the world’s treasures. Even the hearts of “good people”, whose concern and love only manifest when it’s convenient.

Even you and me. Jesus came so the old could be made new. Transformation of hearts and souls. “So get rid of your old self, which made you live as you used to – the old self that was being destroyed by its deceitful desires. Your hearts and minds must be made completely new, and you must put on the new self.(Ephesians 4:22-23a GNT)

Little ones want to be big. Tall like mom, strong like daddy. In a hurry to change from dependent to independent. If only they knew what us ‘big’ people know – it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Because not only do bodies grow up, but also minds and attitudes.

And the result of those who feed on what satisfies self is all around us. From the first man and woman to you and I – uncontrolled by faith in God, we will always end up needing someone to pick up the pieces.

“The thief comes only in order to steal, kill, and destroy. I have come in order that you might have life – life in all its fullness.” (John 10:10 GNT)

It’s a life-long process, this transformation. But a life walked with Jesus will result in a makeover. “Do not conform yourselves to the standards of this world, but let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind.” (Romans 12:2 GNT)

Before and after – once we were lost, now we are being made new day by day. These bodies may be aging and crumbling, but our spirits are growing and changing. We need a metamorphosis not hidden in cocoons, but lived out in ways that show Messiah is our King.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2Corinthians 5:17 NIV)

Beyond the Curtain

Perspective… My four year old grandson napped at my house from the time he was four months old. His room had heavy window coverings to make it nice and dark (and hopefully give gwammy a short break).

This week we took everything out, window coverings off, painted the walls – ready to turn it in to a Little Man Cave for three grandsons. He went into the empty room and looked towards the window: “Wow – gwammy, did you move the house? How did those trees get there?” He never saw beyond the curtain.

Is this us or what? We judge people, circumstances, everything based on our limited view. We also frame our relationship, or lack thereof, with Jesus based on our limited view.

This is why it is so very important to look beyond headlines, news clips, fake smiles delivering false promises. Beyond textbooks and educators with agendas. To seek the truth, because it can be found. To look beyond the curtain that unbelievers and our enemy use to block our view.

“This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary.” (Hebrews 6:19 NLT)

It’s also why it’s important that our Bibles aren’t something we dust off only when cleaning house. It’s a living book, new with each reading, brimming over with all we need for life – now and in eternity.

I recently wrote to older grandchildren and told them that not reading the Bible and saying they know Jesus, is like getting married someday but never speaking to your spouse after the wedding.

God wants us to k-n-o-w Him. He’s made it possible. Not some god that has rituals, traditions, icons, etc.; not one who we fail based on a set of laws. “…we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. By His death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting Him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water.” (Hebrews 10:19b-22 NLT)

Jehovah, the God of the universe – Jesus Christ, the Savior of mankind – and the Holy Spirit dwelling in us – want us to experience their presence in our hearts and souls now – and in forever. Our Father wants us talking with Him daily and promises, through His Word, to talk with us. He ripped the curtain top to bottom, because He wants us beyond the curtain.

Come hungry

It’s fun to be invited over for a meal, come as you are, don’t bring a thing. A text that day says: come hungry!

So we bring empty tummies anticipating not only good food, but good company and laughs. I’ve noticed that Jesus is an inviter. Two brothers were doing what they always did – fishing for a living. As Jesus was passing by He gave an irresistible invitation: “Come, follow Me’, Jesus said, ‘and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19 NIV)

What was it about Messiah that made those two drop their nets and follow? Little did they know what an adventure they were in for.

He invites you and me too. Meeting us when we least expect Him to show up.

Like when we’ve lost our temper, been critical of someone, been selfish. When we’re tired and just want to escape. The invitation: “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28b NLT)

There is an invitation He extends that we seem to ignore: to get to know Him. To spend time with Him. Why? Why is it the world and all our busyness is so much more alluring? Why aren’t we like those fishermen – eager to join Jesus?

We do seem to fill ourselves up with useless things – social media, tv, games, etc. We ‘choose’ to let one day after another fade away often not blowing the dust off the words of the invitation – the Bible. Once a rich young man asked Christ what it would take for him to have eternal life. Jesus kept it simple: “sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me.” (Matthew 19:21) The man went away sad.

That’s us. Treasure in heaven is the promise and yet we cling to this life, to our earthly riches. We don’t know what an adventure we’re missing out on. It’s not that Jesus doesn’t want us to have stuff – it’s that He doesn’t want the stuff to have us. He wants us to come hungry, feast on His Word and be filled to overflowing with the goodness of all He wants to give us. How can we resist?

Right Now

Ever driven by a place countless times and not really notice it? Read something and miss the story? Thinking maybe our brains are a bit harried in this fast-paced world. We take in what we think is important, but often miss the good stuff.

It’s probably why we think children grow too fast, but they feel like growing up takes forever. Little minds notice just about everything. Time to be like little children.

Little ones look at you intently, sometimes taking pudgy hands and holding your face. Undivided attention. That should be us when we pick up the Bible. Today I read this verse (for probably the thousandth time): “Then Jesus looked up and said, ‘Father, I thank You that You have heard Me.’ ” (John 11:41b NIV)

The verse is in the midst of the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. Lazarus – dead now for four days. Tears of his loved ones still flowing. All wondering why Jesus hadn’t come sooner, He could have healed him.

Stormie Omartian points out: “This sounds like the end of a prayer, not the beginning…Jesus had been praying all along…talking with His Father for days, as He always did…with full knowledge of the upcoming event.”

Jesus said ‘heard Me’ – past tense. He finishes His statement with this: “I knew that You always hear Me,” (John 11:42a NIV) Jesus said ‘knew’ – past tense.

All along the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit are in constant communication. In our tears, frustrations, failures – right there. In all our ups and downs there is purpose, and in all of it – for those who know Jesus as Lord – there is victory. This comes next: “but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they might believe that You sent Me.” (John 11:42b NIV)

With that Jesus called to Lazarus – and out he came from that grave. Maybe in this moment, right now, you think Jesus isn’t coming, it’s too late. Guess what? He’s been praying for you way ahead of right now. And right now you can look up and say to Him – just as He said to His Father – ‘I know You always hear me’. He has His purpose and His plan for you secure in His loving hands.

Open Hands

My hands are starting to reveal my age. I can still picture my mother’s hands and I adore my daughter’s hands, beautiful.

Their hands and mine have changed countless diapers, cooked countless meals, and wiped up countless spills. They are hands that have cuddled little ones with booboos and they are hands that have been raised in praise to God. I was surprised how many references to God’s hands there are in the Bible.

In His hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to Him. The sea is His, for He made it, and His hands formed the dry land.” (Psalm 95:4 NIV)

Yet there are many mentions of our hands as well. What we should do with them and what we should not do.

I think if we did a study about the Father’s hands, Jesus’ hands, and our own hands – we might put a lot more thought into the wonder of them – but also a lot more thought about how we use them. Even the moment of salvation is often described as: ‘God reached out to me’. The visual of reaching out is a hand extended – accepted, that hand rescues us, helps us, guides us.

I will praise You as long as I live, and in Your name I will lift up my hands.” (Psalm 63:4 NIV)

We are wondrously created, given gifts nothing else in creation has. A mind that creates and thinks and ponders. Emotions, for better or worse. A spirit that is in death’s grip until our hands open and find Jesus.

Hands that are folded, balled into fists, put on our hips or behind our backs – those are defiant hands. Ones that say ‘I’m in charge’. Hands that are open, uplifted, ready to welcome – those are hands the Savior can use.

I hope my children remember my hands, my grandchildren too. Remember them as a comfort and always ready to touch in love. Most of all I hope Messiah will enable my hands to bring Him glory. No matter how crinkly the skin gets or stiff the joints, these hands will lift themselves to the heavens. Look in wonder at the uniqueness of your hands – crafted before your first breath – made for God’s purposes.

Let the favor of the Lord our God be on us; establish for us the work of our hands– establish the work of our hands!(Psalm 90:17 HCSB)

Alive

It is curious that we have managed to confuse what is and isn’t life. Whether something is alive or just a bunch of cells.

Seems like many have more regard for a single celled amoeba than they do for a miraculously growing baby. These are the times we live in. The enemy has done a great job of blinding eyes, hardening hearts, and convincing souls that self knows what is best.

Because self is on the throne, most of the time, the convincing isn’t too hard. So if we can call unimportant, useless, inconvenient a pre-born baby – just think of how we would view an ordinary looking man claiming to be Jesus. For most, it was very inconvenient when He walked the earth. “He was in the world, and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognize Him.” (John 1:10 BSB)

Jesus came to serve. Not something most of us want to consider, we would rather be served. Through His serving, He healed bodies and souls. He spoke freedom to hearts long-surrendered to no hope. He poured Himself out without asking for anything in return.

Jesus came to die. Again, not something we like pondering. His very life had a death warrant from the beginning. When He began His ministry, and for the next three years, He spoke truth. This really bothered (annoyed, angered, and inconvenienced) those in charge. If indeed He was Messiah, this was not good timing in their opinion.

“He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him.” (John 1:11 BSB)

So how do you view the Christ? Is He okay when He doesn’t dampen your fun? Good when He allows you to survive a catastrophe? Perhaps He’s a real pain because right now you just want to live on your own terms and not have to think about your sin-full heart.

Here’s Easter: mankind is not in charge. God is on the throne, always has been, always will be. He had a plan before the beginning and His plan for the eternity of those who love His Son cannot be thwarted. His love for man cannot be diminished no matter our past. His forgiveness is complete. His offer of a no more sorrow, no more pain eternity is a free gift.

This Easter if you know Him, make Him known. If you don’t know Him, I can tell you He’s a whole lot better than a chocolate bunny, a family dinner, or Sunday afternoon nap. Jesus died and Jesus is ALIVE and no matter what you “believe” – He is coming again. Be ready and you will be more alive than you have ever been.

“But to all who did receive Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12 BSB)

Silence…

My husband complains he hears traffic at night even though the highway is a mile or so away. I don’t hear anything at night unless he snores. Our world is noisy. Even in the quietest night, the buzz from electrical appliances and hums from various other sources are there. Our ears would be shocked if an EMP silenced all that.

Even Jesus craved quiet. Often he went up into the hills or to a lonely place by Himself. To hear the Father’s voice requires aloneness.

And so, leading up to the Resurrection, we have: Silent Saturday. The triumphant entry of Messiah is done. The tossing of vendor tables long over. The demands to crucify the Christ satisfied. And the anguish of the Son of God on the cross is finished. “Jesus said, ‘It is finished.’ With that, He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.” (John 19:30b NIV)

Saturday – no recorded history of that day. Silence in the aftermath of a supposed ending none expected. Kind of like when a loved one dies unexpectedly and all the concern of those around us is said and now it’s just us…and the vacancy left.

But what human eyes could not see, nor ears hear, nor minds grasp was that the end had not occurred. In depths of death Jesus visited those of long ago and when the final hours of Saturday concluded the best was just beginning.

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love Him.” (1Corinthians 2:9b NLT)

Can we even begin to get our minds around this? How do we grasp that God would want anyone so vile as all humans who have ever walked this earth? All men, women, and children are bent to self and its unending desire to have its way. And yet, God, in much mercy and tremendous grace says follow Me, and more than you can ask or imagine or hope or dream – it’s all yours.

There’s only one God, one life here on earth, and one eternity. God made a way, Jesus – the Way, for us to someday see His face, touch His hands, and walk into life unending with self finally no more our king. “For there is one God and one mediator between God and humanity, Christ Jesus, Himself human, who gave Himself–a ransom for all, a testimony at the proper time.” (1Timothy 2:5-6 HCSB)

The Easter question is: will our soul surrender and accept the call of the one true King? In the answer lies forever.

Keeping it Simple

Today’s post is simple and short and hopefully a blessing.

Things Jesus wants you to know: You are free in Him – no more bondage to the past, no more fear of the future. He wants you to live in that freedom. You are loved – not just what we can imagine love is. Love like we can never imagine for this Love has no boundaries, no contingencies, no conditions. You can live forever – the Book of Life has your name in it when you ask Jesus to be your Savior. It doesn’t get erased. You are eternal.And this is the way to have eternal life—to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth.” (John 17:3 NLT)

Things not to forget: The Bible is inerrant, has no mistakes or contradictions. There is only one God and He has made Himself known as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Our enemy is real and wants only our destruction. Prayer is actual communication with God. Praising God will immediately change everything because it takes our eyes off circumstances and puts them on Jesus.  “I will praise the LORD at all times; His praise will always be on my lips.” (Psalm 34:1 HCSB)

Things to do every day: Count your blessings and tell your woes your God is bigger. Pray all day, every day – moment to moment (you can do it). Read your Bible, ask for wisdom and understanding, He gives it generously. “Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” (1Thessalonians 5:16-18 NLT)

Keeping it simple this week – lift your eyes to your Maker, you can’t go wrong and you will be renewed. (Hope you enjoy the pics, they were what creation had waiting for me after a week away.)

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